Perhaps nowhere is the conflict between banks that took government funding and those that didn't more intense than in Texas.
Worthington National Bank in Arlington and First Financial Bank in Abilene have been trumpeting in ads the fact that they did not receive funding from the Treasury Department.
Both hope to win new customers with their marketing efforts. They would not say how well they have succeeded on that score, but they have succeeded in riling a competitor, PlainsCapital Corp. in Dallas.
Since Jan. 1 the $179 million-asset Worthington, which has four Fort Worth-area branches, been running two billboard ads in the city. One of them reads: "Just say no to bailout banks. Bank responsibly."
For the past two weeks the $3.21 billion-asset First Financial Bank, which has 25 branches in the Fort Worth area, has been running ads in several area newspapers with a similar message: "This one doesn't need a bailout. … We have money to lend."
Both companies stand by their decisions, but Alan B. White, the chief executive officer of PlainsCapital, which has 11 branches in the Fort Worth area, called the executives behind the ads "irresponsible bankers." He said the moves contribute to "the media frenzy" surrounding companies that sold shares to the government under the Treasury's Capital Purchase Program.
One TV reporter showed up on his doorstep before 8 a.m. one day last week, he said.
In December the $3.9 billion-asset PlainsCapital received $87.6 million from the Treasury, and though Mr. White is not planning an ad campaign of his own, he was quoted in the Feb. 9 Fort Worth Star-Telegram calling the ads a "cheap shot."
"We're trying to be a leader in our community, and leaders don't take a handout," Mr. Morse told American Banker last week.
Mr. Morse declined to say how many new accounts the company has opened since his company started running the ads, but he said he has received nearly 300 favorable e-mails about them.
F. Scott Dueser, the CEO of First Financial Bankshares Inc., First Financial Bank's parent, said he does not begrudge other banks for accepting money from the government. He said his ads were in response to repeated questions from First Financial's customers over whether it had received bailout money.
"Texas people are very independent and they just do not like government intervention," Mr. Dueser said. "So if that's the way they feel about it, we wanted to tell them the truth with these ads."
Mr. White said that the ads have not hurt PlainsCapital's business but that he is worried about the damage being done to the reputation of banks that took government money.
"I'm angry about the way we're being depicted in this country — we're being thrown under the bus."
PlainsCapital Bank was well capitalized before it received government funds, but regulators encouraged it to participate in the program anyway, Mr. White said.
Both First Financial and Worthington also have capital ratios above the well-capitalized thresholds.
And despite credit deterioration, all three companies' ratio of nonperforming loans to total loans was reasonable at the end of last year: 1.52% for PlainsCapital, 0.8% for First Financial, and 1.25% for Worthington.
Mr. White said that since receiving the Tarp money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program in late December, PlainsCapital has made $359 million in mortgages, mostly refinancings. It has also bought $160 million in auction-rate securities for student loans and bought bonds from a local municipal water district to build infrastructure.
Other companies have issued press releases to let their shareholders know they did not take government bailout money or have granted interviews to various media outlets discussing their reasoning.
Kevin Funnell, a Dallas banking lawyer who posts the Bank Lawyer's Blog, said in the long run companies like First Financial and Worthington may be harming themselves, not just banks that received government funds.
"Banks tapping into the public anger over the current situation is a dangerous game," Mr. Funnell said in an interview. "It worsens the public perception of the industry as a whole, for their own short-term advantage."